I Left My Kefir Out For A Long time- Is It Still Safe To Drink?
I get this question a lot. The thing is, it is hard to establish a new habit, and once the novelty wears off, it is easy to forget to look after your kefir every day. When this happens, people sometimes leave their kefir unattended for days, weeks or even months and then wonder if the grains are ruined. So let me address this question generally, and then we can go through some different scenarios in a little more detail.
Is it still safe to drink?
Maybe, but if you are not sure, strain the grains and dump the liquid and start over.
Are the grains rotten, spoiled, or gone bad?
Maybe, but more likely we can salvage them. it depends on the situation though.
So let's look at some different situations, but I want to warn you… after reading this, do not email me and say, "My grains were working just fine, I put them in fresh solution every day like I always do, and today when I woke up, there was an inch of blue mold on the top." If this is you, then check with your spouse or room-mate first and make sure you haven't been in a coma for 2 weeks, because mold does not grow into an inch of thick slime "while you sleep"! (just sayin', I've been doing this a long time! heheh)
Milk or Water Kefir Sits On Counter For A Few Days-
In this case, the grains are fine, and you may even be able to still drink the kefir you've made. it will definitely be a little more tart, and likely have a little more alcohol and fizz than you are used to, but put it in a smoothie and you probably won't even notice a difference.
Milk or Water Kefir Sits On Counter For A Week Or Two-
In this case, the grains are probably fine, but I would strain off the liquid and discard it. If the kefir sits out for too long, the balance of bacteria and yeast in the kefir can shift. It's probably not harmful, but not worth a chance.
In this case, milk kefir will often get a fuzzy looking film on top. If it is white or off-white in color, it isn't mold. It'sjust a growth caused by the yeast. It's an indication that your kefir has sat for a while untended, but it isn't harmful.
If the film is orange tinted, it is still fine. That's the fat in the milk changing color.
If it is blue, green or black, that's mold. Skim it off and throw it out.
Milk or Water Kefir Sits In The Fridge For A Long Time-
Strain the grains and resume making kefir. It's probably fine. I've had water kefir grains in the fridge for almost a year untended and they've recovered just fine. I've had milk kefir grains in milk in the fridge for over 6 months and they have recovered fine.
Kefir Has Been Around A Long Time-
The kefir grains you are using likely originated in Tibetan Mountains many centuries ago. Certainly they predate refrigeration. In fact, fermenting milk was a way to preserve it before refrigeration. In those days, a sac of milk and kefir grains hung by the door, and everyone who came in gave it a knock to keep it stirred up. They dispensed kefir from the sac and topped it up with milk as needed.
So if your kefir has been untended for a long time, EVEN IF there is a small amount of mold on top, chances are you can revitalize them again.
How To Rehabilitate Your Kefir Grains
If your kefir did sit out on the counter top for too long, they are probably still fine.
- First, if there is any film, crust, or discoloration on top, take a spatula and scrape this off and discard it.
- pour the contents of your jar into a plastic mesh strainer, and strain off the liquid. Discard if you think it is too old.
- Gently rinse the grains- On a day to day basis you never rinse the grains, but if they've sat for a long time you just want to remove any surface crud that doesn't belong on them. Water kefir grains get rinse in fresh cool water. Milk kefir grains can be rinsed in water or milk.
- Put the clean grains in a new clean jar and start again. They make take a few days to recover, depending on how long they were without food, but most of the time they are working again in a day or three.
- Set a reminder on your computer or smart phone to chnage the solution once every day or two, depending on your preference.
If after you read this article you still are not sure, you should probably throw out your grains and start over. Kefir grains are so inexpensive! Just visit the order page to see for yourself! So for a measley amount of money, it doesn't make sense to worry.
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